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A Reason to Rehabilitate

Tragic accident doesn't stop new dad from participating in birth

Patrick ProvancePeople talk about the miracle of birth. Patrick Provance and Nikki Haegdorens – along with caregivers at The University of Kansas Hospital – managed a few miracles of their own.

A construction worker, Provance was installing guttering on a home May 21 when he suffered an electric shock. The 20-foot fall left him paralyzed from the chest down. He’s been at our hospital ever since.

At the time of the accident, his fiancee, Haegdorens, was three weeks from her due date. The couple was determined he participate in the birth, despite his paralysis.

An interdisciplinary hospital team began planning how to support the young couple’s wish. Coordinated by Trauma Services, the team included Surgical ICU, the Burnett Burn Center, Labor- Delivery and Physical and Occupational Therapy.

First they needed Provance to tolerate sitting upright for several hours during the birth. Physical Therapy’s Sarah Nelson, DPT, used the special day as incentive. “I knew how important it was for him to be there,” said Nelson, herself a new mom. “I really wanted to push for that. It motivated me, too!”

Little by little he was able to sit on the edge of his bed, then transfer to a cardiac chair, then build his endurance in the chair from a few minutes to an hour, then two. Therapists in OT focused on increasing function and strength in his hands, which were badly burned from the electric shock.

The trickiest part of the plan was about to begin: Timing the birth so Provance was upright in the cardiac chair as little as possible – two to three hours at most.

It was June 18, and the baby was arriving faster than expected. Staff transferred Provance to a cardiac chair then hustled him from the Burn Center to Labor-Delivery.

He was wheeled in just 20 minutes before the birth. The couple chuckled when they saw each other – they were wearing similar hospital gowns. Provance held Haegdorens’ hand during delivery.

His own hands had grown strong enough to cut the umbilical cord and cradle his newborn daughter, Mia – all 7.8 pounds of her. Parents and nurses were teary-eyed alike.

“The collaboration among the entire team was outstanding,” said Amanda Meats, RN, Mother Baby nurse manager. “It’s moments like this that make you proud to work with such amazing and caring people.”

Provance expects to leave the hospital in a month or two, then begin outpatient therapy. He doesn’t know if he’ll ever walk, but with plenty of rehabilitation he can be 100 percent independent – even able to help raise his daughter along with his soon-to-be wife.

“It’s a difficult, unfortunate situation,” he said of his accident. “There’s nothing I can do but stay positive. That’s best for my recovery and my family.”